Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 27, 2013

C&O park a powerful economic engine, new study shows

CUMBERLAND — Just as automatic federal spending cuts loom on Friday that would powerfully impact national parks, a new study shows the economic pep that national parks in the region provide.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park had more than 3.9 million visitors in 2011 who spent $54 million in the communities along the towpath from Washington to Cumberland. That spending supported 654 private sector jobs.

Antietam National Battlefield had 384,987 visitors, bringing $20 million in economic benefits and supporting 268 private sector jobs.

In Maryland, that impact translates to more than 6 million visitors spending $157 million and supporting 2,177 private sector jobs. The report for 2011 shows that the 44.5 million visitors to national parks in the greater Washington, D.C., area spent $1.37 billion in the surrounding communities. This spending supported more than 17,000 jobs across the region.

The study’s results were broken down by state, but not by local areas. There is a breakdown of number of visitors by local area, showing growth in visits in most park areas in the county, with only a few showing decreases from the same month last year.

The end of the towpath in Cumberland has shown a 7.5 percent increase from January of last year, up to 1,155 visitors from 1,074 in 2012, a park service reports shows.

“National parks in the greater Washington area preserve the American story and serve as a stage where history is made and remembered,” said NPS Regional Director Stephen Whitesell. “Not only do national parks in this area attract visitors from across the country and around the world, but they are also integral to Washingtonians’ daily lives. We are proud to be entrusted with America’s most treasured places, and it’s important to understand the extent to which the visitors we welcome contribute to the local, state and national economy.”

Most visitor spending nationwide supports jobs in lodging, food and beverage service (63 percent) followed by recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other retail (11 percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent), and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent), the report showed.

The information is part of a peer-reviewed spending analysis of national park visitors conducted by Michigan State University for the National Park Service.

For 2011, the report shows $13 billion of direct spending by 279 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. That visitor spending was a $30 billion benefit to the entire U.S. economy and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 398 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

For more on national parks, visit www.nps.gov.

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